C.P. #6: In-Camera Abstraction

Dance of the Gwragedd Annwn

One of the approaches to changing up my photography game over the years is to experiment in lots of different directions. These experiments have always been more about finding out if there was something that connected for me rather than having a very precise target.

With this approach, I have found that there have been numerous blind alleys that didn’t resonate and a few paths that I keep returning to, as there’s just something that keeps pulling me in their direction. One such path is using the camera to create more abstract images, such as this…

Dance of the Gwragedd Annwn

This image from 2012 is an example of the abstract path that I called an exploration of kryptomorphaics; yes, I made the word up from the concepts of hidden (krypto) and changing the shape (morph) of what I saw in front of me. A lot of these images are whimsical, such as this one, where the bright bits of light among leaves allowed me to create a completely new form for them. Thus the title of this shot, as Gwragedd Annwn are beautiful water faeries.

The technique on this image is rather straightforward, as I did a simple tight, imperfect round motion with the barrel of the lens to create a more circular form during the 0.3 second exposure. This created the more dance-like movement of the light across a darker landscape, giving the illusion of water sprites flittering in front of us.

During my exploration I found many ways to create abstractions directly in my shots, and every once in a while I think of a new thing to try to see how it connects for me. As I used these various techniques there did come a point that I started ‘seeing’ the possibilities in various scenes that allowed me to create something interesting.

I’d love to hear of what your photographic explorations have created for you!

Neon Daybreak

As the Neon Day Breaks

One of the fun parts of going through my collection of Yoga Tree images is seeing what ideas are created now, as opposed to how I saw this more than 8 years ago. I’ve made in-roads into organizing this collection of nearly 500 images and found this one inspiring…

Neon Daybreak

As I have more tools in my arsenal than I did back when I captured this image, I happened upon a Luminar AI template that provided a great starting point: Neon Skyline, which is part of the Artistic Collection. Building on this, I forged my own template that worked better for this image and coined it Neon Daybreak.

This image evoked both a sense of hope and a feeling of futurism, which I think is part of what all of us might experience; I can imagine the next generation of flying machines that might one day cross this sky… will they be support vehicles or terminators?

I would love to hear what thoughts come to your mind when you view this image.

Breakfast Serendipity

A bird in the window!

Do you ever have one of those moments when something happens that leads you to believe the Universe isn’t such a bad place after all? For some unfathomable reason this tends to happen to me on a regular, although unpredictable, basis.

During our recent vacation cruise with Viking from Amsterdam to Basel, there was such a moment. Imagine being moored (Kehl, Germany) and sitting down for breakfast on a lovely morning, when you’ve decided to just take it easy (it’s a vacation, after all). As breakfast is served you look out the window to see this…

Grey Heron

Clearly there’s good fishing (or frogging) when there’s a boat next to the bank of the river, as this grey heron knows what they are doing. He stood there for several minutes, moving just a bit from time to time looking for a meal.

I felt lucky to capture this moment, as a number of coincidences had to coalesce to create this part of space-time. The heron had to pick the spot on the river bank right next to our window. As we were facing easterly, the morning sun reflected off the window to create reflected lighting that most photographers have to learn to create with often expensive equipment. I appreciate moments such as these!

This photo was captured with an iPhone 13 Pro Max and processed using Skylum’s Luminar AI software and Adobe Photoshop.

Visit to a Volcano (part 2)

Part 2 of a trek to Fagradalsfjall volcano and the experience of witnessing Earth’s tremendous power

In yesterday’s post (Visit to a Volcano – (part 1)), I documented the journey to the August eruption of Fagradalsfjall, which took us about 2-1/2 hours to reap the reward of the sound and fury of Mother Earth.

After overcoming the first sensations of the sound and vision produced by Nature at its finest, I found a spot from where I could set up my tripod and camera; with a Canon RF 100-500mm telephoto lens mounted, I wanted to get to the capturing of this amazing spectacle…

Volcanic Action #1

In the first couple of images, I attempted to get a sense of the scene in front of me. Under the spell of Nature’s prowess, these were feeble trials of basic photographic work.

Part of what I had to come to grips with was that I needed to connect with what was happening in front of me; having never experienced a volcanic eruption in person before, I was overwhelmed…

Volcanic Action #2

As I tightened my shot and reduced the field of view, I started the process of building a connection with Earth’s power. Heat was palpable and even the bright day could only diminish some of the glow of the lava flowing away from the cones.

As I slowly started to make a connection, there were aspects of the eruption that I could sense: rhythm, magnitude, under-worldly sounds…

Volcanic Action #3

Lines started forming in from of my lens, as the feel of the volcano’s machinations could be felt in every fiber of my body. Between the low register sounds emitted by build up and compression of air in the underground chambers, and the semi-explosive emissions of lava into the air, one cannot help but be inspired.

Slowly but surely, I attempted to build a series of images…

Volcanic Action #4

There is a sort of fiery dance, as the lava is thrown up into the air with the grace of a ballerina, where it solidifies into shards that glow in their descent. It reminds me of a hot spring, where the mud releases streams of water into the air, but significantly hotter!

The visions kept dancing…

Volcanic Action #5

The glow of the lava stream with the multitude of fiery shards in the air really gave me the sense of witnessing something beyond humanity’s capability to fully harness. The immense power coupled with such beauty left me staring in amazement.

And the best part is that this spectacle kept on performing in front of my eyes…

Volcanic Action #6

Capturing protuberances gave me a sense of what it might be to look at our Sun from a closer vantage point. We’re given a taste of our home star’s power on our own planet.

The unfortunate part is that our visit had to end, as we were on a timetable. I could have spent many more hours at this amazing site, and would have loved to capture this brilliance under darker conditions. However, I will cherish that time that I had at Fagradalsfjall volcano, knowing that I was lucky enough to experience something that lasted for only 19 days. Sometimes, it’s good to be lucky in getting to a place!

The 4.5 mile hike each way was well worth it, and I feel privileged to share this experience with you!

Glacial Enigma

Nature’s code lies in front of us; can we understand her?

As I was going through the significant numbers of my Iceland photos, something caught my eye, so I thought that I’d share it with you:

Structure: pressure and time.

The reason that this stood out to me might just be that my brain started finding additional, hidden images in this field created by time and pressure. Nature put additional information for us to interpret, giving us the challenge of reaching an understanding of the many mysteries that surround us.

What is the message that you receive from this glacial enigma?

Vatnajökull and Jökulsárlón (part 2)

The second of two posts on the impressive glacier Vatnajökull and its offspring. Photography on a rainy, windy day might be challenging, but it’s still worth it when landscapes are this amazing!

In the previous post in this series (Vatnajökull and Jökulsárlón (part 1)) the focus was squarely on the main feature of the two, Vatnajökull, the magnificent glacier. While not as imposing as the glacier, Jökulsárlón, literally ‘glacial river lagoon’ is a wonderful source of images and a backdrop for four Hollywood movies.

This is truly a river that carries glacial output from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier across the lagoon toward the Atlantic Ocean. Breiðamerkurjökull is an outlet glacier of Vatnajökull, as icebergs break away from it, slowly floating away; some of these icebergs can spend as much as 5 years in the lagoon, depending on their size, before they are small enough to make it to the ocean.

Jökulsárlón ice flows

The ice flows in the above image are near the exit of the lagoon, where they will meet the Atlantic Ocean. As these blocks of ice meet the ocean, some break up and chunks are driven back onto a black sand beach, also known as Diamond Beach. On a sunny day, they are a spectacular sight.

Jökulsárlon icebergs

The iceberg sections above still show the striations of the dirt that has been collected along the path of the glacier, to be covered with snow and ice; this gives a sense of the age of the ice, somewhat akin to the rings of trees. Notice also that certain parts of the ice have a distinct glacial blue color; this ice has been compressed into a crystalline structure that is more reflective of the blue area of the visible spectrum.

Weathering the day in Jökulsárlón

Despite it being a rainy day, neither the birds nor the photographers were discouraged from checking out this magical location. It did convince me that it will be wonderful to spend a couple of hours here to photograph its beauty on a sunny day!

As you might imagine, I will certainly want to come back to explore Iceland more in the future!

Vatnajökull and Jökulsárlón (part 1)

The first of two posts on the impressive glacier Vatnajökull and its offspring. Photography on a rainy, windy day might be challenging, but it’s still worth it when landscapes are this amazing!

The land of Ice and Fire provides magnificent displays of both, and I was fortunate enough to get to experience the entire spectrum during my recent photography tour.

I will dedicate two posts this week to the ice marvels presented by Vatnajökull and Jökulsárlón. Let’s start with the Glacier of Lakes, as Vatnajökull translates, which is the largest ice cap in Iceland and the second largest in Europe. With an average thickness of 380m, it is rather imposing.

Despite the fact that we visited on a rather rainy (and windy, as in hold on to your tripod, lest it blows over), it was inspiring to visit both sites. After a short hike from our parking location, there was a great location to get a complete view of the ablation zone of the glacier:

The Foot of Vatnajökull

As I walked toward this area to set up my tripod, I was greeted by the sound and view of a segment of the glacier breaking off; it was a small section, but still awe inspiring to experience. It is clear from the amount of dirt that is embedded in the ice that a lot of material is collected, as the glacier progress downhill at its slow pace. Of course, the forces exerted by this mass of ice and snow are tremendous and landscape altering.

Vatnajökull Glacier ablation

This second image is a bit further away, so that it provides a better view of the ice sections (miniature icebergs) that have broken loose from VatnaJökull, and have started their journey, as they float along.

In the next post, I’ll cover the lagoon that is also fed by Vatnajökull: Jökulsárlón.

Both of these images are HDR composites of captures at -2.3, 0.0 and 1.3 EV and combined using Skylum’s Aurora HDR. I’m a big fan Aurora HDR, as it not only does a stellar job of the HDR processing, but also makes it easy to make some quick adjustments that provide a sense of what the final image can look like.

After the HDR composites are finalized, I do clean up and touch up in Adobe Photoshop; on a rainy day, there was no avoiding getting some droplet on the lens filter, which had to be removed in post-processing. I did some further balancing of the exposure, as the sky was rather bright compared to the foreground.

The Mighty Geyser – Strokkur

Catching a geyser eruption sequence in Iceland of the mighty Strokkur.

I think it’s an understatement to say that Iceland is paradise for photographers, as I have found no other single island that offers the variety of scenic wonders that I find here (if you know of one, please share, and I will add it to my bucket list).

In August, my good friend and excellent photographer, George Fellner (link) and I joined a photo trip to Iceland that was led by Loren Fisher (link). This trip was a lot of fun and filled with amazing photography opportunities (there are a lot of images still to edit).

One of the iconic bits of Icelandic scenery that I was lucky enough to capture is the geyser Strokkur (Icelandic for ‘churn’), which you can see in this eruption sequence.

Strokkur has been around for quite some time, as it was first described in 1789, when an earthquake unblocked a conduit, so that the geyser could manifest itself. Even though its activity was rather variable it was active throughout the entire 19th century until at the beginning of the 20th century, Strokkur’s conduit was blocked once again by another earthquake. It remained inactive until its conduit was reopened in 1963; this time it was done with human assistance.

Since the 1963 re-plumbing, Strokkur has been very reliable with eruptions every 6-10 minutes and producing a typical height from 15-20 meters.

During our visit to the site, I witnessed 5 or 6 eruptions and noticed that some might be quite a bit smaller than others. As I was trying to predict the exact time of eruption, I built up a sense of the surface tension that builds up just before Strokkur lets go; it is almost as if the earth is taking a number of breaths in order to have enough air to propel the geyser. At the split second before eruption, a large bluish bubble rises up, which then explodes upwards, as you can see in the photo sequence.

The photo sequence of the eruption is was shot using my Canon EOS R5 camera and a Canon RF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM lens. The sequence was taken in aperture priority mode with an f-stop of 6.3 and 100 ISO; the resultant shutter speeds were in the 1/1000 to 1/1300 second range.

Exploring in a New Light

There are times in all of our lives, whether professional, personal or creative, that we need to find a new spark of inspiration to drive us to that next level.

I have been looking for a while to find a that source of ignition in my creative endeavors, as my photography was suffering from seeing the world around me in the same way that I have for a long time. One area of photography that has intrigued me for a while is that of Infrared photography, or, more accurately, filtering out a significant part of the visible spectrum.

As there was an upcoming Infrared photography workshop led by Lee Varis and Bobbi Lane (link) rather nearby to me, I took the plunge and had one of my DSLRs converted to a sensor that would filter all light wavelengths shorter than 590nm. As 590nm is in the yellow-orange part of the visible spectrum, the sensor will capture from there to the deep red and infrared bands.

Here is an image that I captured yesterday during this workshop…

Nature’s Beacon

The image is an allium flower backlit by the afternoon Sun. I was pleasantly surprised by the effect of a slight bit of lens flare within the body of the flower, as if provides the sense of hot gases escaping from a celestial body.

Part of what I enjoy thus far in IR photography is that what you see through the camera is not the image that you’ll create after processing. The Raw capture by the camera looks like this:

Nature’s Beacon (unprocessed)

In this unprocessed image you can see the part of the spectrum that was capture. While I’m still learning more about the processing of 590nm IR images, the basic steps I follow are these:

– Convert RAW image to DNG for white balance adjustment
– Select my 590nm white balance profile in Adobe Camera Raw
– In Photoshop swap the Blue and Red channels in the image and make other edits

As I gain more experience with the processing, I will put together a post about it.

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